ScienceScope

Science  13 Oct 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5490, pp. 245
  1. In the Zone

    Earth science chiefs at the National Science Foundation will need to think harder about how to take advantage of new technologies and findings. That's the conclusion of a National Research Council panel that is urging a two-thirds boost in the program's $100 million annual budget.

    The committee's report (www.nap.edu/books/030907133X/html), released last week, points to research on the “Critical Zone”—where water, air, rock, soil, and life come together—and in the emerging field of geobiology, among others, as worthy of investment. The panel suggests cooperative planetary efforts with NASA and natural laboratories, such as turning deep-drilling sites into long-term observatories.

    The committee, chaired by geophysicist Thomas Jordan of the University of California, Los Angeles, says that increased spending must not ignore “the single most important mechanism” for keeping earth science strong—research by individuals and small groups of investigators. It also “strongly endorses” the proposed EarthScope (Science, 26 November 1999, p. 1655).

  2. A Thirst for Science

    An apocalyptic advertisement last week in Slovenia's largest daily newspaper warns of the dire effects of federal budget cuts to research and rallies support for a national walkout.

    The ad, paid for with $5 contributions by hundreds of scientists, warns that research budgets are so thin that some institutes may be forced to close. Per capita spending has fallen to $60 per person, it declares—“enough for a dozen pizzas—without beer.” The ad, which proclaims “the end of science,” is part of a protest that was to culminate in a 2-hour walkout by researchers and professors on 13 October.

    Slovenia, an ex-Yugoslav republic the size of New Jersey, is far from an economic basket case, and its science has been considered among the best funded in formerly communist European states. But the pedestal beneath Slovenian science is crumbling, say researchers. “The government has to act quickly, or this decline will be irreversible,” complains Vito Turk, the biochemist who heads the country's biggest research center, the Jovzef Stefan Institute. The ad and work stoppage are also aimed at candidates running for parliament on 15 October.

  3. O Give Me a Home

    The fate of 288 chimpanzees used for research remains uncertain after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) rejected a proposal from their current caretakers to continue housing them.

    The NIH assumed ownership of the chimpanzees in May after a settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's office of animal welfare required the Coulston Foundation of Alamogordo, New Mexico, to give up ownership of the animals (Science, 12 May, p. 943). NIH then announced a competition for their care, to which Coulston applied. But on 5 October NIH sent a letter to Coulston, saying that an outside review committee had found its proposal unacceptable. The decision leaves Coulston temporarily in charge of the animals.

    The latest decision is “an extension of NIH's mismanagement and irresponsibility,” says Suzanne Roy, program officer of In Defense of Animals (IDA), a California-based animal-rights group. “We're working as fast as we can” to recruit another caretaker for the animals, counters John Stranberg, NIH's director of comparative medicine.

  4. Sausagemakers

    The White House and Congress reached a tentative deal late last week on a 2001 spending bill that contains good news for NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). But at press time officials at both agencies were still waiting to learn what strings had been attached and how legislators planned to finish their work.

    The bill would give NSF a 13.5% increase, to $4.4 billion, from its current $3.9 billion budget. That's close to the Administration's 17.3% request and much higher than the versions passed earlier this year by the House and a key Senate committee.

    The $14.3 billion for NASA would be $250 million above the request and a sharp improvement over earlier bills, which were below what the agency had proposed (Science, 22 September, p. 2018). The additional funding would take care of most—although not all—of the pork-barrel projects larded into the conference bill by lawmakers. But it's not expected to rescue a Pluto mission or other moribund space science efforts.

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